How to build a diversity & inclusion training program
Instructional Design

How to build a diversity & inclusion training program

, Former Content Marketing Manager

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a hot topic in L&D these days, and for good reason. It’s a topic you want to get right in your organization. Committing to diversity and inclusion in the workplace is the first step. The next may seem a bit vague: actually rolling out the diversity and inclusion training program.

If you’re expanding your employee development strategy to include training for diversity and inclusion, you may have big questions, starting with, “Where do we begin?

This article will cover exactly what you need to know to get started, including what to include in your curriculum and tips for rolling it out effectively. But before we get into the specifics, let’s look at the challenges you might be facing.

The challenges of training for diversity

There’s no question that targeted training can help you create a safe and productive work environment. Supporting a diverse workforce has immense benefits to employee wellbeing and to your bottom line.

But there are a few hurdles to be aware of and overcome when creating a successful diversity training program. For instance:

  • Getting buy-in. Decision-makers may not understand the benefits of adding diversity training to the roster. Without leadership support, it’s hard to get the resources to build or implement an effective diversity and inclusion training program.
  • Lack of data. Organizations don’t always have a good way to evaluate how strong their D&I programs are. Without useful metrics or clear benchmark goals, it’s difficult to know what’s working and what needs more attention.
  • Low skill transfer. Training can make people aware of the issues and even change attitudes. But if it’s not also structured to change behavior, it won’t have the impact you want.

If you’re mindful of these challenges as you plan out your training strategy, you can be much more confident in creating helpful training.

Building successful diversity and inclusion training

Diversity and inclusion training should build awareness of unconscious biases and shape attitudes that make your company a place where people feel comfortable sharing their voice and contributing to your growth. It should also enable the behaviors that support these results.

Consider the following guidelines for creating training that hits all your targets.

Start with the basics

Depending on whether you’ve rolled out D&I training in the past, it might be best to begin with a primer on the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Start with a course or courses that define the main concepts and explain why the topic matters.

Include content that describes different types of discrimination so employees are aware of what to watch for. And include lessons that define terms like unconscious bias and privilege to help learners see the impact they have on the office environment and their own team.

Start by building a foundation of understanding for your employees—and key leaders. Help them understand what diversity and inclusion are and see how it impacts them and their coworkers. It’ll make them more aware of their behavior and help build support for your training going forward.

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Aim for behavior change

Once people have a clear picture of what D&I training is and are engaged, you can move on to the practical application. You’ll want to teach learners what to actually do to achieve the results that matter. Do this with more interactive training.

You might include content around how to support specific types of inclusion, like gender equality, or LGBTQ+ awareness and inclusion. These lessons should include specific skills employees can put into practice to make a difference. For example, they should teach them how to confront discrimination when they see it.

Use familiar scenarios as examples to make the content real and memorable. Give people role plays in those scenarios so they can practice responding in a safe environment. People are more likely to practice new skills if they have a pattern for doing so. Give them the scripts they need to help them feel confident in using the skills back on the job.

Focus on specific roles and seniority levels

Different roles will have a different influence on how diversity and inclusion play out in your organization. Once you have the basics down, you may want to offer more tailored training.

For example, include courses for team leaders that focus on how to treat team members with equity. Run a course aimed at teaching managers how to implement D&I through their leadership roles.

Knowing what content is important for your organization and how to present it will create the foundation of successful diversity and inclusion training. A few sound practices will help you roll out the training in a natural progression that will help employees grow their understanding (and their skills).

Diversity and inclusion training: Do's and don'ts

4 dos and don’ts for D&I training

Rolling out successful training is a continuous effort. Here are four tips to keep in mind to help you implement it effectively:

1. Do connect the initiative to company goals

Communicate how your diversity and inclusion training program will support your organization’s larger objectives. Send an email to introduce training in the context of your company values. Or, include a welcome video from the CEO that affirms the value of this particular program.

Give your training outcomes a boost by helping people see how the content supports the company’s mission and growth.

2. Don’t communicate shame

Poornima Luthra shares in “Empathy and Inclusivity in the Workplace” , from TalentLMS’ podcast series, Keep It Simple, that bias is often seen as only negative. This is problematic because we all have biases, and we need to break the idea that being biased makes someone a bad person.

poornima luthra non bias

The purpose of training your employees in diversity is to create a safe, inclusive space. Recognize that this is an opportunity for everyone to expand their understanding. Some of the concepts may be new to those who haven’t been in diverse environments yet. And others may have felt discrimination in past work situations.

Set up the expectation that this is a learning environment. And make it clear that your company will support people’s efforts to report and correct any incidents of discrimination. When people feel safe learning and acting on the content, they’ll engage more fully.

3. Do understand that D&I is an ongoing process

Real progress will not happen with one-off training. Keep the conversation going with continuing training and reviews. Make diversity and inclusion an inherent part of your culture by “walking the talk.

Use the terms and skills from the training in your company communications. And make sure team leaders are following up with their direct reports on any concerns or questions.

4. Don’t forget to measure your progress

To build a truly powerful training program, you need to monitor its success and make improvements where needed. Survey employees after their training and a few months down the road. Ask about their understanding of the principles and take a pulse on what they’re experiencing in the workplace.

Do they see the principles in action? Do they feel safe contributing their voice to their team and the overall organization?

And put the metrics your LMS gathers to good use. Run reports to see how people are engaging, how they’re performing in quizzes and tests, and where they might be lagging. Both types of measurements will help you see what’s missing or where you could improve your training program.

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Build a stronger company with diversity training

While it’s important to see skill transfer with any training, it’s especially important that you ensure people apply what they learn in D&I training. And that you constantly revisit and update your content.

Diversity and inclusion are not just about saying you’re an equal employer or advertising that you care about inclusion. It’s about actually building an equal and inclusive workplace. And you can only achieve that by taking the care needed to nurture real learning and growth.

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Christina Pavlou - Former Content Marketing Manager

Christina, ex-Content Marketing Manager at Epignosis, focuses on L&D, diversity, and enhancing workplace well-being. Learn how to improve your work environment. More by Christina!

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